Argentina and Chile cutting it fine?
Argentina and Chile’s World Cup qualification hopes were left on a knife edge on Tuesday after the South American heavyweights slipped up again on the road to next year’s finals in Russia
Argentina needed a second-half own goal to help them snatch a 1-1 draw with already-eliminated Venezuela in Buenos Aires, while Chile crashed to a 1-0 defeat against Bolivia in La Paz
The results left 2014 World Cup finalists Argentina and reigning Copa America champions Chile outside the automatic qualifying places and set up a nail-biting final two rounds of matches next month
Argentina are fifth in the standings with 24 points from 16 games while Chile are sixth with 23
The Argentinians, who would face a play-off against New Zealand if they remain fifth, host fourth-placed Peru next month in Buenos Aires before an awkward final game at altitude against Ecuador
Chile face Ecuador in Santiago on October 5, before heading to Brazil for their final qualifier five days later
At the top of the table, Brazil have already qualified and assured themselves of first place. They picked up another point on Tuesday with a 1-1 draw with third-placed Colombia in Barranquilla
In Buenos Aires, Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli admitted his team had blown a golden opportunity to force themselves into the automatic qualifying places following Chile’s defeat earlier in the day
Sampaoli blamed poor first-half finishing for his side’s failure to take all three points against the Venezuelans
“We have two games left against Peru and Ecuador and we need to win both of them. We had three chances to score in the first half and everything could have been settled. We must continue to fight in attack and give strength to the players.”
Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi echoed Sampaoli’s sentiments after watching his side slide to a dispiriting loss in La Paz
“We will fight, we will make the greatest effort possible, we believe that we have the ability to compete with the best and we will try to obtain the results that allow us to qualify,” said Pizzi
Uruguay moved to the brink of qualification with a typically combative 2-1 win over Paraguay in Asuncion
Paraguay, riding high after a 3-0 win over Chile in Santiago last month, were left stunned by two opportunistic Uruguay goals
Federico Valverde fired Uruguay ahead with a deflected shot on 76 minutes before Luis Suarez then broke clear to set up the visitors’ second
The result left Uruguay second with 27 points from 16 games. A win in Venezuela in their next game would see them through
Seventh-placed Paraguay still have an outside chance of qualification but will probably need to beat Colombia in their next game before wrapping up their campaign against Venezuela.
Italians get back to winning ways?
Ciro Immobile’s second half header got Italy back to winning ways in a 1-0 win over Israel in Reggio Emilia on Tuesday to move them closer to the World Cup
After losing 3-0 to Spain at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, Italy needed a win to continue to aspire to first place in Group G, leading to automatic qualification
Italy still have a remote chance of finishing first as they are three points behind Spain with two games left, but the play-offs look increasingly likely
Spain top the table after routing Liechtenstein 8-0
The three points in the Mapei Stadium helped Italy consolidate second place in Group G, six points clear of third-placed Albania, who were held 1-1 by Macedonia
Italy, without injured Giorgio Chiellini and suspended Leonardo Bonucci, were far from convincing after their demolition by Spain
Israel, playing without captain Eran Zahavi who quit international football in disgust after his side were jeered by home fans in Haifa on Saturday in a shock loss to Macedonia, suffered their fifth defeat of the campaign
Italy next have games against Macedonia in Turin and Albania away in October
The last time Italy had to go through play-offs was in 1997 on the road to the 1998 World Cup in France.
Dream continues for war-torn Syria?
Omar Al Soma’s stoppage-time equaliser took war-torn Syria into Asia’s World Cup play-offs on Tuesday, as South Korea and Saudi Arabia both booked their spots at next year’s tournament
Syria were 2-1 down against Iran and heading out when Al Soma threaded his shot through goalkeeper Alireza Salimi’s legs in the third added minute, sparking wild celebrations
The draw means Syria, who have defied the odds while civil war rages in their country, face Australia home and away, with the winners going into an intercontinental play-off
On the final night of qualifying group games, South Korea drew 0-0 with Uzbekistan to reach their ninth straight World Cup, while Saudi Arabia joined them with a 1-0 win over Japan.
Fahad Al Muwallad’s thunderous winner in Jeddah qualified the Saudis for their fifth World Cup, snatching the second automatic spot in Group B and relegating Australia to the play-offs
The Koreans, Saudis and already-qualified Japan and Iran will now hope to improve on Asia’s disappointing 2014 World Cup, when no team from the region reached the knock-out stage
Syria’s heroics also extinguished China’s faint hopes of reaching only their second World Cup, despite snatching a 2-1 win over 2022 hosts Qatar thanks to Wu Lei’s late winner
Earlier in Group B, Australia won 2-1 against Thailand but they will rue their failure to score more as they missed out on an automatic place on goal difference
The United Arab Emirates also saw their dream die when they lost 1-0 to Iraq to finish fourth in Group B.
Away draw keeps US in race to Russia?
Hamburg striker Bobby Wood scored a late equaliser to salvage a crucial 1-1 draw for the US in their World Cup qualifier with Honduras on Tuesday
The result means Bruce Arena’s side still have automatic qualification in their own hands, with a home match against Panama next month followed by an away game against Trinidad & Tobago
If the US win both of those games, they will be assured of reaching next year’s finals
Costa Rica squandered the chance to qualify after a 1-1 home draw with already-qualified Mexico, while Panama moved into the automatic qualifying places in third spot by beating Trinidad and Tobago 3-0. – AFP